Sri Lanka swears in new president amid economic crisis and soaring inflation
This content was published on July 21, 2022 – 11:21
By Uditha Jayasinghe
COLOMBO (Reuters) – Veteran politician Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as Sri Lanka’s new president on Thursday, a day after winning a vote in parliament and urging the island nation to come together to find a way out of its worst crisis economy for decades.
The country of 22 million people has been crippled by a lack of foreign currency, causing shortages of fuel, food and medicine as prices soar.
Inflation reached an annual rate of 59% in June, according to the statistics department.
Six-time prime minister Wickremesinghe took over from Gotabaya Rajapaksa who fled Sri Lanka and resigned from his post last week after mass protests over his handling of the economy. The swearing-in ceremony took place in parliament and was presided over by the country’s Chief Justice.
Sri Lanka received new diesel supplies over the weekend and the main state-owned distributor, Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, will resume sales under a new rationing scheme from Thursday, the ministry of fuel said. ‘Energy and Energy.
The protest movement that ousted Rajapaksa – the first sitting Sri Lankan president to step down – remained largely silent, despite Wickremesinghe’s unpopularity among some sections of the population.
Only a handful of people were present on Thursday outside the presidential secretariat, a colonial-era building that was stormed by a sea of protesters earlier this month, as well as the official residences of the president and prime minister.
But some have sworn to fight against Wickremesinghe.
“We will not give up because what the country needs is a total system change,” said Pratibha Fernando, a protester at the secretariat. “We want to get rid of these corrupt politicians, so that’s what we’re doing.”
Hours after winning the parliamentary vote on Wednesday, Wickremesinghe appeared to distance himself from the powerful Rajapaksa family that has dominated Sri Lankan politics for decades.
“I am not a friend of the Rajapaksas. I am a friend of the people,” he told reporters after praying at a Buddhist temple.
Wickremesinghe, who previously served as prime minister and finance minister under Rajapaksa, has been involved in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout worth up to $3 billion.
Sri Lanka is also seeking help from neighboring India, China and other international partners.
(Reporting by Uditha Jayasinghe in Colombo, Additional reporting by Adnan Abidi and Sunil Kataria, Writing by Shilpa Jamkhandikar and Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Nick Macfie)